The Mind-Eye Institute team consists of a group of very talented individuals with the shared goal of excellent patient care. Together, we bring a wealth of knowledge obtained through both traditional education and many years of “hands-on” experience in our respective fields.
As our contingent continues to expand, we look forward to exploring the talents and gifts of new team members to better serve our patient population.
Zemen S. Abebe, BSN, MSN
Zemen S. Abebe, BSN, MSN
Longtime administrator for the Chicago area’s NorthShore University HealthSystem, has joined the Mind-Eye Institute as its president, effective August 5th , 2019.
Abebe is not new to health practice administration. She has nearly 30 years of experience in nursing and hospital administration. Beginning in 2010, she served as director of perioperative services at Skokie Hospital, which is part of the NorthShore health system and located in Skokie, Illinois.
Among Abebe’s achievements in the directorship role have been the planning and organization of both a surgical pavilion and an orthopaedic and spine-focused hospital at the Skokie Hospital campus, building of strong physician partnerships, establishment of an orthopaedic trauma program, participation in product-value-analysis teams, management of hospital accreditation visits from the Joint Commission and development of a highly competent, specialized surgical team.
She also has worked as a clinical nurse manager, case manager and urology team leader at Glenbrook Hospital, another facility in the NorthShore University HealthSystem.
Deborah Zelinsky O.D.
Deborah Zelinsky O.D., F.N.O.R.A., F.C.O.V.D.
Daniel Myers O.D.
Dan Myers O.D.
An optometrist with clinical interest in the management of ocular diseases such as glaucoma, dry eye, eye irritations and disorders of the aging eye has joined the staff at the advanced Mind-Eye Institute, based in Northbrook, Ill.
Daniel B. Myers, O.D., who once served as an optometrist at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, a multidisciplinary teaching hospital in the Greater Twin Cities Area of Minnesota, says he is excited about his new responsibilities, which involve leading much of the clinical optometric services under the guidance of Mind-Eye Institute research director and founder, Deborah Zelinsky, O.D.
“I am here as much to learn and train as to provide patient care. That’s because the Institute is truly unique. The team here is doing some amazing, innovative work,” says Dr. Myers, referring to the Mind-Eye Institute’s mission of enhancing scientific understanding of how light entering through the retina can impact brain function, nerve pathways and body chemistry
By using prescriptive eyeglasses to manipulate the way light enters the eye, the Institute is helping patients overcome learning and behavioral disorders and recover from debilitating, life-altering symptoms of brain injuries.
While at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, Dr. Myers co-managed eye care for a high volume of patients, performing eye evaluations and examinations and addressing a variety of ocular disorders. Other experience includes service in a private family practice, Kennedy Eye Associates in Roseville, Minn., which specializes in general optometric care, and performance of optometric examinations in a boutique retail setting for SEE Eyewear in Minneapolis.
Dr. Myers also was managing optometrist for LensCrafters in Lincolnwood, Ill., after moving to the Chicago area from Minnesota in September 2017.
A graduate of the University of Kansas, Dr. Myers attended the University of Missouri-St. Louis where he earned his Doctor of Optometry. He later completed several externships, primarily in the St. Louis area in 2011 and 2012, gaining expertise in contact lens fitting, ocular disease management and primary care optometry.
His professional work includes membership in the American Optometric Association. He also has been very much involved in community service, participating for four years in Volunteer Optometric Services for Humanity. Through that organization, he spent time providing ocular care to patients in Colombia.
When not caring for patients, Dr. Myers spends his time with his wife and two young children. He also enjoys traveling abroad and experiencing unique cultures, as well as cheering for the University of Kansas Jayhawks football and basketball teams.
Dr. Daniel Nast O.D.
Dr. Daniel Nast, Jr. has a long history of managing patients with all kinds of vision disorders especially those affecting the binocular visual system. A 1942 graduate of Monroe College of Optometry, and a forerunner of today’s Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago, he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to The Mind-Eye Institute. He is a charter member of the College of Optometrist in Vision Development (C.O.V.D.). He is an army veteran of World War II and was responsible for the eye care of other servicemen during the war. Upon exiting the army, Dr. Nast began a private practice with a focus on pediatrics and binocular vision where he successfully provided top-notch eye care to his patients for many years. He joined The Mind-Eye Institute in 2014.
When it comes to the Mind-Eye Institute, staff member Johnnie Hughes appreciates being exactly where she’s at – the front desk. That’s because Johnnie is a “people person,” and her seat at the front gives her opportunity to greet – and, more importantly, assist – patients who come through the Institute’s front door.
“I truly feel for people. If I see children who are anxious or hyper in the waiting-area I will find them puzzles or a book to read to them,” she says. “I help older patients as well. I have something in my heart for them. If I see an elderly person struggling outside our doors, I go outside to assist. Recently, we had an older, brain-injured patient who came to us and was very anxious. I was able to calm her and walk her through the entire process.”
Johnnie is not new to Mind-Eye Institute. She has known the Institute’s founder and executive research director, Deborah Zelinsky O.D., for some 20 years – when Dr. Zelinsky was operating a smaller, single-doctor optometric clinic. Beginning about 1997, Johnnie served as Dr. Zelinsky’s office manager.
When not helping patients at the clinic, Johnnie, who returned to Mind-Eye in 2019 following several other job roles, including traffic data manager for the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, is shakin’ – food ingredients, that is – and bakin’.
“Cooking is my passion,” says Johnnie. In fact, this Chicago mother of two and grandmother of three earned a degree in culinary arts from Kendall College in 2006 while still working for the Mind-Eye Institute, and Dr. Zelinsky play a small role in Johnnie’s success. “I would bring Dr. Zelinsky bread to sample from my bread-making class and show her photos of the gorgeous desserts created,” Johnnie says.
Following her graduation from Kendall, Johnnie worked for a brief period in pastry preparation at the Sofitel Hotel in Rosemont. “Kendall gave me the needed confidence,” says Johnnie, who also has expertise as a seamstress and is an avid reader.
Alexis Mathews Carr
Alexis Mathews Carr
Alexis Mathews Carr has a strong interest in mental health. That’s why she is enrolled in a three-year graduate program in mental health counseling at Trinity International University, and it is also why she appreciates her work at the Mind-Eye Institute, where optometric professionals evaluate and address patient symptoms related to impaired brain processing and function.
“Making more mental health care available in today’s society is critically important,” says the graduate student, who joined the Mind-Eye Institute in June 2019 and receives her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Trinity International in December 2019. She especially sees the need for additional mental health counselors in schools, which have oftentimes been the settings for shootings and other violence.
At Mind-Eye, Alexis helps at the front desk, answering patient queries, scheduling, doing phone follow-ups, maintaining records and generally “keeping things moving.” Her previous experience includes a stint as the activity director for residents of an assisted-living facility in Buffalo Grove, Ill.
Among her hobbies are exploring new restaurants, hiking, fishing – yes, fishing, and writing poetry.
Janely Robles of Waukegan, Ill. may have just joined the Mind-Eye Institute in June 2019, but she brings with her seven years’ experience as an optometrist technician, able to do much of a patient’s required pre-testing. She assesses neye movement/eye tracking, depth perception, color vision, does macular scans and takes corneal measurements, as well as being an astute observer of patient reactions and responses while wearing prism goggles.
“My goal is to find out who a particular patient is and document his or her issues or struggles for the Mind-Eye doctors,” says Janely, who says she was well trained by a former employer, America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses. She started there as a receptionist only to later become a certified optometric technician.
Not bad for someone who originally enrolled in college-credit classes at the College of Lake County’s technology campus, studying early childhood education – an early of interest of hers stemming from her large family with its five siblings (she is the youngest) and 18 nephews and nieces, as well as previous work as a nanny caring for very young twins.
Five years at America’s Best was followed by two years at the Libertyville Vision Center, where Janely conducted patient pre-testing and ordered medications.
But optometric testing is not Janely’s only talent. The 26-year-old is an “artsy/craftsy” party animal of sorts, operating her own side business, Party Glitter by Janely, for which she creates party backdrops and photo props. “I have always enjoyed scrapbooking and doing crafts with children,” she says.
Maria Palmerin is a Mind-Eye optometric technician who especially enjoys working with children. Not a surprising finding, considering Maria managed free eye examinations in as many as 200 schools annually – preschool to high school — prior to joining the Mind-Eye Institute in July 2019.
“I started as an optometric technician for the company that provided the school examinations and then was promoted to field manager, working with about 40 different optometrists, each with his or her own style and method,” says Maria, who earned certification in California as a medical assistant.
Coming to Illinois from the West Coast – “I am still not used to the winters here,” Maria began work as a medical assistant for a pediatric urologist in Des Plaines in 2013 before moving on to the optical field – and schools. But her work has not simply been confined to kids. She also formerly managed free eye examinations for residents of nursing homes.
At Mind-Eye, Maria conducts patient pre-testing, including eye tracking, color assessments, depth perception, prism walk and fundus photos to image the inside of a patient’s eye.
“I like evaluating children, observing their balance – how they run, walk, skip and hop on one foot,” says Maria, whose testing methods are in line with the Mind-Eye philosophy of assessing many physical systems interacting with the eyes– not just a patient’s 20/20 eyesight clarity.
Deborah Zelinsky, O.D., founder and executive research director of the Mind-Eye Institute, has emphasized in the past that an optometric assessment should first include a patient’s history — “listening to who they are, what visual skills do they require to think and to use technology efficiently, where are their weakest points.” Then a functional evaluation should be performed, determining “how patients use their eyes in daily life, what amount of space is comfortable to them, how they habitually react — emotionally or logically, and to which part of their surroundings are they paying attention.”
Only then, with such information, can a Mind-Eye optometrist perform the necessary measurements and make prescription decisions that reflect how a patient adapts to his or her environment, she states. Mind-Eye glasses are termed “Brainwear” rather than “Eyewear,” since they are designed for brain comfort and productivity, not necessarily eyesight.
Maria also assists with the measuring and fitting of patient eyeglasses prescribed by each of the Mind-Eye optometrists and provides patient training for contact-lens wear.
When Maria is not working at the Mind-Eye, you can oftentimes find her watching a baseball game. “Go L.A. Dodgers!”
From journalism to teaching to eye-testing?
That’s Babette Sanders. The Buffalo Grove, Ill. resident joined the Mind-Eye Institute team in April 2019 as an optometric technician, doing patient testing, including eye-tracking/eye movements, right-eye evaluation, color and depth perception and fundus photography to capture images of the inside of a patient’s eye.
Much of her work involves assisting 100-year-old Mind-Eye optometrist, Daniel Nast, O.D., who provides vision therapy to patients who do not require more advanced Mind-Eye care for impairments in brain processing.
Babette’s road to an optometric career was definitely not direct. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University, worked office jobs while raising two children, returned to school where she earned her teaching certificate in elementary education and then spent more than 12 years as a preschool teacher, working at a day care center in the Chicago area.
She developed her current interest in optometric testing when she left teaching and obtained employment at the Palatine Vision Center. She began work at the Mind-Eye Institute as a contract-agency optometric technician, eventually being hired full-time as a Mind-Eye staffer.
When not testing patients, Babette enjoys shopping, movies, restaurant-dining and quality family time with her sister.
“Patient Advocate” – an appropriate designation for a Mind-Eye Institute staff member who “loves helping people who are sick.”
And, Cassandra Chen, who spent more than two years studying to become a cardiovascular technologist, can certainly empathize with patients’ struggles. She was wheelchair-bound for a year-and-a-half following a car crash. Despite her own successful efforts to return to a normal, quality life, she says she continues to be “amazed every day” by the patient success stories occurring at the Mind-Eye Institute.
Cassandra joined the Mind-Eye Institute in July 2019 and, as an advocate, responds to patient queries, does patient phone follow-ups, verifies appointments, itemizes invoices, processes payments and ensures that patients have “everything they need” in terms of answers and correct information.
Of course, such “people assistance” is nothing new for Cassandra; she has ample experience doing it. The former Miami, Florida resident spent six years at a check-cashing outlet where she became store manager, worked the front desk at the Williams Island waterfront community in Florida and, for four years, served on the staff of JenCare Senior Medical Center, helping elderly patients.
With four children, ages 12 years to 17 months, Cassandra laughs when someone asks her what she does in her free time. However, whenever the luxury of free time does occur, Cassandra enjoys reading, especially murder mysteries.
Mely Peña calls the Mind-Eye Institute “a magical place,” primarily because of the positive changes that occur in patients’ lives when prescribed therapeutic “brain” glasses.
“I have never before been employed in a place where you can actually see major things happen in the lives of patients. That’s why I don’t want to stop working [for the Institute]. I love the patients who come here,” says Mely, who holds the title of Mind-Eye patient advocate.
A certified licensed practical nurse (LPN) who formerly cared for disabled and elderly patients at Chicago area nursing facilities and a teller for four years at Ban Industrial in Chicago, Mely joined the Mind-Eye Institute in 2016, initially serving as a front-desk receptionist for patients and visitors. Today, as a patient advocate, Mely is responsible for responding to patient queries, doing patient phone follow-ups, verifying appointments, processing payments and ensuring patients have the answers and information they need.
She attended Wilbur Wright College in Chicago before enrolling in St. Augustine College where she earned her LPN certification.
When not enjoying family time and caring for her daughter, Sophia, Mely does “a little shopping” as a stress-reliever in her spare moments.
David was hired by the Mind-Eye Institute, after being asked to assist in preparing a Power Point presentation requested by Institute research director, Deborah Zelinsky O.D.; designing a temporary web site for the Institute; and then being invited to review Institute office operations.
His recommendations for improvement were so well accepted that he was asked to implement them as a full-time addition to the team. “He has built a wonderful camaraderie among the entire Mind-Eye team, with his infectious and charismatic personality,” says Dr. Zelinsky.
After graduating from Purdue University in 2013 with a degree in special education, David moved to Los Angeles, with the thought of playing guitar and singing. Instead, he landed a marketing job. He enjoyed marketing to the point where his father, Jim Smyth, who later became the CEO for the Mind-Eye Institute, asked David to return to the Midwest to assist him with his marketing needs. David moved to Chicago in 2015, working remotely on behalf of his Dad, who lives in Indianapolis.
David says his “dream” is to someday lead a non-profit institution dedicated to improving the educational system, using his background in working with special needs children. In fact, this interest in education is an important reason why David so much enjoys working for the Mind-Eye Institute.
“The Institute staff have a great deal of focus on helping learning-challenged children develop new skills,” David says.